In these times of severe persecution, two of the church members, S. Fenn and J. Whiteman, were ordained joint pastors. Fenn has just been delivered out of prison; yet they ventured to brave the storm, and in this year, although the lions prowled before the porch, a number were added to the church. Thus was their little Jerusalem built 'even in troublous times.'
Bunyan's popularity and fame for wisdom and knowledge had spread all round the country, and it naturally brought him visitors, with their doubts, and fears, and cases of conscience. Among these a singular instance is recorded in the Life of Badman. 'When I was in prison,' says the narrator, 'there came a woman to me that was under a great deal of trouble. So I asked her, she being a stranger to me, what she had to say to me? She said she was afraid she should be damned. I asked her the cause of those fears. She told me that she had, some time since, lived with a shopkeeper at Wellingborough, and had robbed his box in the shop several times of money, and pray, says she, tell me what I shall do? I told her I would have her go to her master, and make him satisfaction. She said she was afraid lest he should hang her. I told her that I would intercede for her life, and would make use of other friends to do the like; but she told me she durst not venture that. Well, said I, shall I send to your master, while you abide out of sight, and make your peace with him before he sees you? and with that I asked her master's name. But all she said in answer to this was, pray let it alone till I come to you again. So away she went, and neither told me her master's name nor her own; and I never saw here again.' He adds, 'I could tell you of another, that came to me with a like relation concerning herself, and the robbing of her mistress.'
To his cruel imprisonment the world is indebted for the most surprising narrative of a new birth that has ever appeared. It was there that he was led to write the Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. He displays in the preface his deep interest in the spiritual welfare of those who had been born under his ministry. He rejoices in their happiness, even while he was 'sticking between the teeth of the lions in the wilderness. I now again, as before from the top of shenir and Hermon, so now from the lions' dens, from "the mountains of the leopards," do look yet after you all, greatly longing to see your safe arrival into the desired haven.' How natural it was that, while narrating his own experience, he should be led to write a guide to pilgrims through time to eternity, and that it should be dated from 'the den!'
'And thus it was: I writing of the way And race of saints, in this our gospel-day, Fell suddenly into an allegory About their journey, and the way to glory.'
Any one possessing powers of imagination, to whom the adventures of Christian are familiar, would, on reading the Grace Abounding, be continually struck with the likeness there drawn of the pilgrim—the more he contemplates the two pictures of Christian experience, so much the more striking is their similarity. The one is a narrative of facts, the other contains the same facts allegorized. Thus, by an irresistible impulse from heaven upon the mind of a prisoner for Christ, did a light shine forth from the dungeon on Bedford bridge which has largely contributed to enlighten the habitable globe. The Pilgrim has been translated into most of the languages and dialects of the world. The Caffrarian and Hottentot, the enlightened Greek and Hindoo, the remnant of the Hebrew race, the savage Malay and the voluptuous Chinese—all have the wondrous narrative in their own languages. Bunyan was imprisoned by bigots and tyrants, to prevent his being heard or known; and his voice, in consequence, reaches to the ends of the earth. Let every wretched persecutor contemplate this instance of God's over-ruling power. You will surely plunge the avenging sword into your own vitals if, by persecution, you vainly endeavour to wound the saints of the living God. You may make hypocrites throw off their disguise. The real Christian may be discouraged, but he perseveres. He feels the truth of Bunyan's quaint saying, 'the persecutors are but the devil's scarecrows, the old one himself lies quat'; while the eye of God is upon him to save the children of Zion. His otherwise dreary imprisonment was lightened, and the time beguiled by these delightful writings. His fellow-prisoners were benefited by hearing him read his pilgrim's adventures. But this has been so fully displayed in the introduction to the Pilgrim that any further notice is unnecessary.
While busily occupied with his Grace Abounding and Pilgrim's Progress, he wrote a poetical epistle in answer to the kind inquiries of his numerous friends and visitors. After thanking them for counsel and advice, he describes his feelings in prison. His feet stood on Mount Zion; his body within locks and bars, while his mind was free to study Christ, and elevated higher than the stars. Their fetters could not tame his spirit, nor prevent his communion with God. The more his enemies raged, the more peace he experienced. In prison he received the visits of saints, of angels, and the Spirit of God. 'I have been able to laugh at destruction, and to fear neither the horse nor his rider. I have had sweet sights of the forgiveness of my sins in this place, and of my being with Jesus in another world.' If his ears were to be pierced in the pillory, it would be only 'to hang a jewel there.' The source of his happy feelings is well expressed in one of the stanzas:—
'The truth and I were both here cast Together, and we do Lie arm in arm, and so hold fast Each other; this is true.'
Yes, honest John Bunyan, the world at large now gives you credit for the truth of that saying.
How strange must it seem to the luxurious worldling, with his bed of down and splendid hangings, but aching heart, to hear of the exquisite happiness of the prisoner for Christ on his straw pallet! 'When God makes the bed,' as Bunyan says, 'he must needs be easy that is cast thereon; a blessed pillow hath that man for his head, though to all beholders it is hard as a stone.' In the whole course of his troubles, he enjoyed the sympathy of his family and friends. his food was brought daily, and such was the veneration in which his memory was embalmed, that the very jug in which his broth was taken to the prison has been preserved to this day.
In the midst of all his sufferings he murmurs not nor for a moment gives way to revenge; he leaves the persecutor in the hands of God. Stand off, Christian; pity the poor wretch that brings down upon himself the vengeance of God. Your pitiful arm must no strike him—no, stand by, 'that God may have his full blow at him in his time. Wherefore he saith avenge not yourself—"Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." Give place, leave such an one to be handled by me.'
'There are several degrees of suffering for righteousness—the scourge of the tongue, the ruin of an estate, the loss of liberty, a gaol, a gibbet, a stake, a dagger. Now answerable to these are the comforts of the Holy Ghost, prepared like to like, part proportioned to part, only the consolations are said to abound.' The mind of Bunyan was imbued with these sentiments; baptized into them, and consequently elevated far above the fear of what man could do unto him. Yes, he knew the power of God. 'He can make those things that in themselves are most fearful and terrible to behold, the most delightful and most desirable things. He can make a gaol more beautiful than a palace, restraint more sweet by far than liberty, and the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.'
The Bible, that heavenly storehouse, was opened to him: 'I never had, in all my life, so great an inlet into the Word of God as now.' 'I have had sweet sights of forgiveness and of the heavenly Jerusalem. I have seen here that which, while in this world, I shall never be able to express.'
About a year before he was set at liberty he received a very popular work, written by Edward Fowler, a Bedfordshire clergyman, who was soon after elevated to the see of Gloucester. It was entitled The Design of Christianity, and professed to prove that the object of the Saviour was merely to place man in a similar position to that of Adam before the fall. It is an extremely learned production, full of Greek and Latin quotations; but, in Bunyan's estimation, it aimed a deadly blow at the foundations of Christianity. To restore man to Adam's innocency, and then to leave him to cope with Satanic subtlety, was to cut off all hopes of salvation. It was brought to him in February 1672, and in the very short period of forty-two days, Fowler's theory was most completely demolished by Bunyan's Defence of the Doctrine of Justification, 4to, dated from prison, the 27th of the 12th Month, 1671 (27th March, 1672). This was answered by a small 4to volume, entitled Dirt Wiped Off. Bunyan had used some harsh epithets; but the clergyman, or his curate, beat the tinker in abusive language. He had been by this time promoted to the rectory of Cripplegate. For an account of this controversy, the reader is referred to the introduction to Bunyan's work on Justification, and to that to the Pilgrim's Progress. The impression it made upon the public mind is well expressed in a rude rhyme, made by an anonymous author, in his Assembly of Moderate Divines:
'There's a moderate Doctour at Cripplegate dwells, Whom Smythes his curate in trimming excells; But Bunyan a tinker hath tickled his gills.'
The last work that he wrote in prison was the confession of his faith, and reason of his practice as to mixed communion, not with the world, but with saints of other denominations. As this plunged him into a fearful controversy with his Dissenting brethren (Baptists, Independents, and Presbyterians), a notice of it will more properly be introduced in our account of that conflict. He had been incarcerated nearly twelve years, and had determined to suffer to the end. Here he found time 'to weigh, and pause, and pause again, the grounds and foundations of those principles for which he suffered,' and he was a Nonconformist still. 'I cannot, I dare not now revolt or deny my principles, on pain of eternal damnation,' are his impressive words. 'Faith and holiness are my professed principles, with an endeavour to be at peace with all men. Let they themselves be judges, if aught they find in my writing or preaching doth render me worthy of almost twelve years' imprisonment, or one that deserveth to be hanged or banished for ever, according to their tremendous sentence. If nothing will do unless I make of my conscience a continual butchery and slaughter-shop, unless putting out my own eyes, I commit me to the blind to lead me, I have determined, the Almighty God being my help and shield, yet to suffer, if frail life might continue so long, even until the moss shall grow over mine eye-brows, rather than to violate my faith and principles.' The allusion to moss growing on his eye-brows most probably referred to the damp state of his den or dungeon.
The continuation to the Grace Abounding, written by a friend, and published four years after his decease, divides his imprisonment into three periods; but as Bunyan makes it one continued imprisonment, there can be no doubt but that it was a long, dreary confinement; during which the testimony of his friend, Samuel Wilson, is, that it was 'an uncomfortable and close prison, and sometimes under cruel and oppressive jailers.' The division into three parts most probably alludes to the severity or liberality of his jailers. He had at times, while a prisoner, an extraordinary degree of liberty; like Joseph in Egypt, some of his jailers committed all to his hands. There can be little doubt but that he went from the prison to preach in the villages or woods, and at one time went to London to visit his admiring friends; but this coming to the ears of the justices, the humane jailer had well nigh lost his place, and for some time he was not permitted to look out at the door. When this had worn off, he had again opportunities of visiting his church and preaching by stealth. It is said that many of the Baptist congregations in Bedfordshire owe their origin to his midnight preaching.
Upon one occasion, having been permitted to go out and visit his family, with whom he intended to spend the night, long before morning he felt so uneasy that at a very late hour he went back to the prison. Information was given to a neighbouring clerical magistrate that there was strong suspicion of Bunyan having broke prison. At midnight, he sent a messenger to the jail, that he might be a witness against the merciful keeper. On his arrival, he demanded, 'Are all the prisoners safe?' the answer was, 'Yes.' 'Is John Bunyan safe?' 'Yes.' 'Let me see him.' He was called up and confronted with the astonished witness, and all passed off well. His kind-hearted jailer said to him, 'You may go out when you will, for you know much better when to return than I can tell you.'
During these twelve terrible years, and particularly towards the end of his imprisonment, the members and elders of his church at Bedford suffered most severely, a very abridged account of which is given in the introduction to the Pilgrim's Progress. The set time for his liberation was now drawing near, but the singular means by which it was accomplished must be reserved for our next chapter.
BUNYAN IS DELIVERED FROM PRISON—CONTROVERSY WITH THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH ON THE SUBJECT OF THE LORD'S SUPPER—PUBLISHES THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS, AND MANY BOOKS, AND BECOMES EXTREMELY POPULAR—HIS DECEASE AND CHARACTER.
As Charles II felt himself securely seated on his throne, his design to establish an absolute monarchy became more and more apparent. The adulation of his professed friends, and the noisy popularity with which he was greeted, appear to have fostered his crafty designs to rid himself of parliamentary government. His whole conduct was that of a Papist, who keeps no faith with Protestants; or of a statesman, whose religion, honour, and truthfulness, were wholly subservient to expediency. To further his object, he formed a council of five noblemen, two of whom were Roman Catholics, and the other three either careless as to religion or professed infidels. The first letter of their names formed the word CABAL. Aided by these he sought to extinguish liberty, and extirpate the Protestant faith. To furnish himself with the means of indulging his unbridled passions, he, like a buccaneer, seized the Dutch merchantmen returning from India and Smyrna, without any declaration of war, and laid his hands upon all the money borrowed of his merchants which had been deposited in the exchequer. He then united himself with France to destroy Holland, the stronghold of liberty. To gratify the Roman Catholics, and conciliate the Dissenters, he issued a declaration in favour of liberty of conscience, the seal to which he afterwards broke with his own hands, but he could not prevent a considerable degree of religious liberty arising from such vacillating conduct.
Bunyan, who had secured the confidence and esteem of his jailer, now found his prison more like a lodging-house, and enjoyed great privileges. He frequently, if not regularly, attended the church meetings, and preached with some degree of publicity. The church at Bedford was at this time in want of a pastor, and their eyes were naturally fixed upon Bunyan to succeed to that important office. There were two weighty considerations that required Divine guidance in coming to a conclusion. One was, whether it might injuriously affect the prisoner's comforts, and the other was, the propriety of making choice of a Christian brother to be their ministering elder, while incarcerated in a jail. Feeling these difficulties, the church held several meetings on the subject, the minutes of which are very interesting. The first was held at Hawnes, on the 24th of the eighth month (October) 1671, when 'the improvement of the gifts of the church, and their disposal in an orderly way, were proposed to consideration, that God might be sought for direction therein; and a time further to consider and debate thereof, was appointed this day seven-night, at evening, at Bedford, where the principal brethren were desired for that purpose to come together, at brother John Fenn's; and a church-meeting was appointed to be there that day week. The church was also minded to seek God about the choice of brother, Bunyan to the office of elder, that their way in that respect may be cleared up to them.' At a meeting held at Bedford, on the last day of the ninth month (November), there was appointed another meeting 'to pray and consult about concluding the affair before propounded, concerning gifts of the brethren to be improved, and the choice of brother Bunyan to office, at Gamlingay, on the 14th day, and at Hawnes, the 20th, and at Bedfod, the 21st of the same instant, which it was desired might be a general meeting.' After all this jealous care, and these fervent applications to the throne of grace for divine guidance, the result was most gratifying. 'At a full assembly of the church at Bedford, the 21st of the tenth month, after much seeking God by prayer and sober conference formally had, the congregation did at this meeting, with joynt consent, signified by solemn lifting up of their hands, call forth and appoint our brother John Bunyan to the pastoral office or eldership. And he accepting thereof, gave himself up to serve Christ and his Church, in that charge, and received of the elders the right hand of fellowship, after having preached fifteen years.' The choice thus solemnly made, was ratified by the abundant blessings of heavenly union and great prosperity—no stranger or novice, but one whose preaching and writings had proved most acceptable to them for a series of years—on that had been owned and blessed of his God, and whom the church delighted to honour.
At the same church meeting, 'The congregation having had long experience of the faithfulness of brother John Fenn in his care for the poor, did after the same manner solemnly choose him to the honourable office of a deacon, and committed their poor and purse to him, and he accepted thereof, and gave himself up to the Lord and them in that service.' The church did also determine to keep the 26th inst. as a day of fasting and prayer, both here, and at Hawnes, and at Gamlingay, solemnly to commend to the grace of God brother Bunyan and brother Fenn, and to entreat his gracious assistance and presence with them in their respective works, whereunto he hath called them.
The most extraordinary circumstance that took place at this time was, that while Bunyan was a prisoner in a wretched dungeon for preaching the glad tidings of salvation, or, in the mysterious legal jargon of the period, 'holding conventicles,' he received his Majesty's license to preach, and thus to hold conventicles—it was one of the first that was granted. His Majesty continued to keep him a prisoner for preaching more than six months after he had licensed him to preach!! At the same time that the permission to preach was granted to Bunyan, the house of Josiah Roughed, Bedford, was licensed by his Majesty's command, for the use of such as do not conform to the Church of England. In this John Bunyan was authorized to teach, or in any other licensed place. These were among the first licenses that were granted. The present highly-respected pastor of the church considers that this license does not refer to Roughed's private dwelling, but rather to 'an edifice or a barn, purchased of Robert Crompton, Esq., with a piece of ground adjoining it,' in the parishes of St. Paul and Cuthbert, for 50, in 1672, by Roughed, Bunyan, Fenn, and others, and which was released by Fenn to Bunyan and others, November 10, 1681, two days before Fenn's death. This building having been properly fitted up by voluntary contribution, became permanently occupied by the church as its place of meeting, until the old chapel was erected in 1707. From this we may conclude that Bunyan was engaged in his worldly occupation as a brazier, in the year that he obtained his release from prison, and to 1681.
How utterly contemptible does any Government become when they tamper with spiritual worship. At one period they punished Dissenters with imprisonment, transportation, and, to use Judge Keeling's elegant expression in his sentence on Bunyan, 'to stretch by the neck for it'; and anon, the very same Government, under the same king, gives them license to dissent! Human laws affecting religion can never be the standard of morality; to read the Bible is considered to be sin in Tuscany, and righteousness in Britain. The release of this great and pious man from his tedious imprisonment, has been hitherto involved in a cloud of mystery, which it will be our happiness to disperse, while we record that event in a clear, indisputable narrative of facts. His earlier biographer, Mr. Doe, not having access to archives which the lapse of time has now rendered available, attributed his release to the influence of Bishop Barlow, by the interference of Dr. Owen. It is narrated in the life of Dr. Owen, published in 1721:—'The doctor had some friends also among the bishops, Dr. Barlow, formerly his tutor, then bishop of Lincoln, who yet upon a special occasion failed him, when he might have expected the service of his professed friendship. The case was this, Mr. John Bunyan had been confined to a jail twelve years, upon an excommunication for Nonconformity. Now there was a law, that if any two persons will go to the bishop of the diocese, and offer a cautionary bond, that the prisoner shall conform in half a year, the bishop may release him upon that bond; whereupon a friend of this poor man desired Dr. Owen to give him his letter to the bishop in his behalf, which he readily granted. It was soon after the discovery of the Popish plot, when this letter was carried to the bishop, who having read it, desired "a little time to consider of it, and if I can do it, you may be assured of my readiness." He was waited upon again in about a fortnight, and his answer was, "I would desire you to move the Lord Chancellor in the case, and, upon his order, I will do it." To which it was replied, "this method would be chargeable, and the man was poor, not able to expend so much money; and, being satisfied he could do it legally, it was hoped his Lordship would remember his promise, there being no straining a point in the case. But he would do it upon no other terms, which at last was done, and the poor man released." And for this we are told that "Mr. Bunyan returned him his unfeigned thanks, and often remembered him in his prayers, as, next to God, his deliverer."' The whole of this story, so far as it relates to Bunyan, is not only improbable, but utterly impossible. Bunyan was never excommunicated, and he was certainly released from prison two or three years previous to Dr. Barlow becoming a bishop. The critical times to which he alludes, refer doubtless to the Popish plot, which took place in 1678, Bunyan having been released in 1672. The probability is, that Dr. Owen did about 1678 apply to the bishop of Lincoln for the release of some poor prisoner under sentence of excommunication, it being his province to release such prisoners upon their making peace with the Church. If this person was a friend of Bunyan's, his prayers for the bishop, and acknowledgments for this act of kindness, are readily accounted for. That Barlow had nothing to do with Bunyan's release is now perfectly clear; because all, even the minutest particulars relative to it, have been discovered. This is a very romantic history, and necessarily leads us back to the battle of Worcester. At this battle, the republicans were numerous, well disciplined, and led by experienced officers; the royal army was completely routed, and its leaders, who survived the battle, were subject to the severest privations. Charles found refuge at Boscobel House, and, disguised as a woodcutter, was hid in an oak. His adventures and hair-breadth escapes fill a volume:—the parliament offered one thousand pounds reward for his apprehension. At length, after wandering in various disguises forty days, he arrived at Brighton, then a small fishing town, and here his friends succeeded in hiring a fishing boat to take him to France. Numerous histories of this extraordinary escape were published, but no two of them agree, excepting that, to please the king, all the credit was given to Roman Catholics. Of these narratives, that by Dr. Lingard has the strangest blunder. When they left Shoreham, 'The ship stood with easy sail towards the Isle of Wight, as if she were on her way to Deal, to which port she was bound'—Deal being exactly in the contrary direction! Carte has the best account. The vessel was bound for Poole, coal-laden; they left Shoreham at seven a.m. under easy sail; and at five, being off the Isle of Wight, with the wind north, she stood over to France, and returned to Poole, no one discovering that they had been out of their course. A letter recently discovered among the archives of the Society of Friends at Devonshire House solves every difficulty. It is written by Ellis Hookes to the wife of George Fox, dated January, 1670—
'Yesterday there was a friend (a quaker) wth the king, one that is John Groves mate, he was the may yt. was mate to the master of the fisher-boat yt carried the king away when he went from Worcester fight, and only this friend and the master knew of it in the ship, and the friend carried him (the king) ashoare on his shoulders. the king knew him again, and was very friendly to him, and told him he remembered him and of severall tings yt was done in ye ship att the same time. the friend told him the reason why he did not come all this while was yt he was satisfied in yt he had peace and satisfaction in himself yt he did what he did to releiue a man in distresse and now he desired nothing of him (the king) but that he would sett friends at libertie who were great sufferers or to that purpose and told the king he had a paper of 110 that were premunired yt had lain in prison about 6 years and none can release ym but him. Soe the king took the paper and said there was many of ym and yt they would be in again in a monthes time and yt the country gentlemen complained to him yt they were so troubled wth the quakers. So he said he would release him six. but ye friend thinkes to goe to him again, for he had not fully cleared himselfe.'
This letter is endorsed by Fox himself, 'E Hookes to M F of passages consering Richard Carver, that cared the King of his backe.'
E. Hooke's next letter, addressed to George Fox, thus continues the narrative—
'Dear G. F. As for the friend that was with the King, his love is to thee. He has been with the King lately, and Thomas Moore was with him, and the King was very loving to them. He had a fair and free opportunity to open his mind to the King, and the King has promised to do for him, but willed him to wait a month or two longer. I rest thy faithful friend to serve thee,
The captain of the fisher-boat was Nicholas Tattersall, whose grave, covered with a slab of black marble, is still to be seen in Brighton church-yard, with a long poetical inscription, now scarcely legible. On the Restoration, he applied for his reward, and was made a commander in the royal navy, with an annuity to him and his heirs for ever of 100. The family have recently become extinct. His fisher-boat was moored for a considerable time in the Thames, opposite Whitehall. Years had rolled on, but the Quaker mate who had so materially assisted the flying prince—by keeping the secret—arranging the escape with the crew, and when, in fear of danger from a privateer, rowing the prince ashore, and in shoal water carrying him on his shoulders to the land, near the village of Fecamp, in Normandy, yet he had not been with the king to claim any reward. This escape took place in 1651, and nearly twenty years had elapsed, ten of which were after the Restoration; so that in all probability the king, who with all his faults was not ungrateful, was agreeably surprised with his appearance at the palace. Whatever alteration the rough life of a sailor had made on his appearance, the king at once recognized him. All the progress he had made as to worldly prosperity was from being mate of a fisher-boat, under Tattersall, to becoming mate of a West Indiaman, under Captain Grove. His Majesty, who had passed his time more with courtiers than with Quakers, was doubtless astonished that a poor man, having such a claim on his bounty, should have been so many years without seeking his recompense. On asking the reason, the Quaker nobly answered to this effect, That the performance of his duty in saving the life of the hunted prince, was only a moral obligation, for the discharge of which God had amply repaid him by peace and satisfaction in his mind and conscience. And now, Sire, I ask nothing for myself, but that your Majesty would do the same to my friends that I did for you—set the poor pious sufferers at liberty, that they may bless you, and that you may have that peace and satisfaction which always follows good and benevolent actions. The king attempted feebly to argue, that they would soon offend again, and that they were much complained of by the country gentlemen. How readily the sailor might have said to his sailor king, Alter the ship's articles, let all the crew fare alike as to their free choice in religion, and there will be no grumbling in your noble ship; every subject will do his duty. The king offered to release any six, and we may imagine the sailor's blunt answer, What, six poor Quakers for a king's ransom!! His Majesty was so pleased as to invite him to come again, when he introduced another member of the Society of Friends, Thomas Moore. At this period an amazing number of Friends, men and women, were in the jails throughout the kingdom, torn from their families, and suffering most severe privations, under which great numbers had perished. The application for the release of the survivors, thus happily commenced, was followed up with zeal and energy, and crowned with great success. This narrative solves all those difficulties which rendered that remarkable event extremely mysterious. The question naturally arises why so debauched and dissolute a king should prefer such tight-laced Christians to be the peculiar objects of his mercy. The reason is perfectly obvious, he owed his life to one of their members, who, however poor as to this world, possessed those riches of piety which prevented his taking any personal reward for an act of duty. Shade of the noble sailor, thy name, Richard Carver, is worthy of all honour! And the more so, because thy gallant bearing has been studiously concealed in all the histories of these important transactions. Had he been a mischief-making Jesuit, like Father Huddleston, his noble deed would have been trumpeted forth for the admiration of the world in all ages. His name was left to perish in oblivion, because he was of a despised sect. It is an honour to Christianity that a labouring man preferred the duty of saving the life of a human being, and that of an enemy, to gaining so easily heaps of glittering gold. And when all the resources of royalty were ready munificently to reward him, he, like Moses, preferred the rescue of his suffering friends to personal honours or emoluments—even to all the riches of England!
The efforts of Carver and Moore were followed by most earnest appeals for mercy by George Whitehead, who with Moore appeared before the king in council several times, until at length the royal word sanctioned this act of mercy. The Quakers were then appealed to by sufferers of other denominations, and advised them to obtain the permission of the king in council, that their names might be inserted in the deed; rendering them all the assistance that was in their power. Great difficulties were encountered in passing the cumbrous deed through the various offices, and then in pleading it in all parts of the country. The number of Quakers thus released from imprisonment was 471, being about the same number as those who had perished in the jails. The rest of the prisoners liberated by this deed were Baptists and Independents, and among the former was JOHN BUNYAN.
A very circumstantial narrative of these proceedings, copies of the minutes of the privy council, and other documents, will be found in the introduction to The Pilgrim's Progress. One of these official papers affords an interesting subject of study to an occasional conformist. It is the return of the sheriff of Bedfordshire, stating that ALL the sufferings of Bunyan—his privation of liberty, sacrifice of wife, children, and temporal comforts, with the fear of an ignominious death—were for refusing to attend his parish church and hear the Common Prayer service.
When it is considered that Bunyan was very severe in his remarks upon the Quakers, the event reflects no ordinary degree of honour upon the Society of Friends, at whose sole charge, and entirely by their own exertions, this great deed of benevolence was begun, carried on, and completed. It is difficult to ascertain the exact duration of this sad imprisonment, because we cannot discover any record of the day of his release. His imprisonment commenced November 13, 1660, and his pardon under the great seal is dated September 13, 1672. As the pardon included nearly 500 sufferers, it occupied some time to obtain official duplicates to be exhibited at the assizes and sessions for the various counties. A letter from E. Hooks to Mrs. Fox intimates that none were released on the 1st November 1672. Another letter shows that the Bedfordshire prisoners were discharged before January 10, 1673; confirming Bunyan's own account, published by him in the Grace Abounding, 1680, that his imprisonment lasted complete twelve years.
During the latter period of his imprisonment, probably from the time of his receiving the royal license to preach, May 15, 1672, he enjoyed extraordinary liberty—visiting those who had been kind to his family, and preaching in the surrounding counties. An entry in the records of the city of Leicester proves that he was there, and claimed the liberty of preaching—'John Bunyan's license bears date the 15th of May 1672, to teach as a Congregational person, being of that persuasion, in the house of Josias Roughed, Bedford, or in any other place, room, or house, licensed by his Majestie's memorand. The said Bunyan shewed his license to Mr. Mayor, Mr. Overinge, Mr. Freeman, and Mr. Browne, being then present, the 6th day of October, 1672, that being about two months before his final release from jail.'
His first object, upon recovering his liberty, appears to have been the proper arrangement of his worldly business, that he might provide for the wants of his family, a matter of little difficulty with their frugal habits. He, at the same time, entered with all his soul into his beloved work of preaching and writing, to set forth the glories of Immanuel. The testimony of one who was his 'true friend and long acquaintance,' is, that one of the first fruits of his liberation was to visit those who had assisted him and comforted his family during his incarceration, encouraging those who were in fear of a prison, and collecting means of assistance to those who still remained prisoners; traveling even to remote counties to effect these merciful objects.
While the premises occupied by Mr. Roughed were being converted into a capacious meeting-house, the pastor was indefatigable in visiting the sick, and preaching from house to house, settling churches in the villages, reconciling differences, and extending the sacred influences of the gospel, so that in a very short time he attained the appellation of Bishop Bunyan—a title much better merited by him than by the downy prelates who sent him to jail for preaching that which they ought to have preached.
He formed branch churches at Gamlingay, Hawnes, Cotton-end, and Kempston, in connection with that at Bedford. When he opened the new meeting-house, it was so thronged that many were constrained to stay without, though it was very spacious, every one striving to partake of his instructions. Here he lived, in much peace and quiet of mind, contenting himself with that little God had bestowed upon him, and sequestering himself from all secular employments to follow that of his call to the ministry. The word 'sequestering' would lead us to conclude, that his business was continued by his family, under his care, but so as to allow him much time for his Christian duties, and his benevolent pursuits. His peaceful course was interrupted by a severe controversy with the Christian world upon the subject of communion at the Lord's Table, which had commenced while he was in prison. He would admit none but those who, by a godly conversation, brought forth fruits meet for repentance, nor dared he to refuse any who were admitted to spiritual communion with the Redeemer. Every sect which celebrated the Lord's Supper, fenced the table round with ritual observances, except the Baptist church at Bedford, which stood preeminent for non-sectarianism. A singular proof of this is, that the catechism called Instruction of the Ignorant, written and published by Bunyan, is admirably adapted for the use, not only of his own church, but of Christians of all denominations.
His spirit was greatly refreshed by finding that his precept and example had been blessed to his son Thomas. On the 6th of the 11th month, 1673, he passed the lions, and was welcomed into the house called Beautiful, uniting in full communion with his father's church. There doubtless was, as Mercy expresses it, 'music in the house, music in the heart, and music also in heaven, for joy that he was here.' He afterwards became a village preacher.
Bunyan was by no means a latitudinarian. No one felt greater decision than he did for the truths of our holy faith. When his Lord's design in Christianity was, as he thought, perverted by a beneficed clergyman, then he sent forth from his prison an answer as from a son of thunder, even at the risk of his life. His love for the pure doctrines of the gospel was as decided as his aversion to sectarian titles. 'As for those factious titles of Anabaptists, Independents, Presbyterians, or the like, I conclude that they came neither from Jerusalem, nor from Antioch, but rather from hell and Babylon, for they naturally tend to divisions.' The only title that he loved was that of Christian. 'It is strange to see how men are wedded to their own opinions, beyond what the law of grace and love will admit. Here is a Presbyter—here an Independent and a Baptist, so joined each man to his own opinions, that they cannot have that communion one with another as by the testament of the Lord Jesus they are commanded and enjoined.' The meaning which he attached to the word 'sectarian' is very striking—Pharisees are sectarians, they who in Divine worship turn aside from the rule of the written Word, and in their manner do it to be seen of men—these are sectaries. Bunyan was most decided as to the importance of baptism and the Lord's Supper. 'Do you think that love letters are not desired between lovers? Why these, God's ordinances, they are his love letters, and his love tokens, too. No marvel, then, if the righteous do so desire them. "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the honey-comb." Christ made himself known to his disciples in breaking of bread; who would not, then, that loves to know him, be present at such an ordinance? Ofttimes the Holy Ghost, in the comfortable influence of it, has accompanied the baptized in the very act of administering of it.' His views of the fellowship of the saints were equally explicit—'Church fellowship, rightly managed, is the glory of all the world. No place, no community, no fellowship, is adorned and bespangled with those beauties, as is a church rightly knit together to their Head, and lovingly serving one another.' Such he admitted to the table of their common Lord; but, in his esteem, to communicate with the profane was all one with sacrificing to the devil.
All this liberality was accompanied by very strict notions of church fellowship, not allowing private judgment in the withdrawing of any member, if the church withheld its approbation. Mary Tilney had been cruelly robbed by the persecuting Justice Porter, for not attending the parish church. He carted away all her goods, beds, and bedding, even to the hangings of her rooms. She was a most benevolent widow, and was more troubled with the crying and sighing of her poor neighbours, than with the loss of her goods. Harassed by persecution at Bedford, she removed to London, and requested her dismission to a church of which her son-in-law was pastor, which was refused. As the letter announcing this to her is a good example of Bunyan's epistolary correspondence, it is carefully extracted from the church book.
'Our dearly-beloved sister Tilney.
'Grace, mercy, and peace be with you, by Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
'I received your letter, and have presented it to the sight of the brethren, who, after due consideration of your motion, have jointly concluded to give you this answer. This for yourself (honoured sister), you are of high esteem with the church of God in this place, both because his grace hath been bestowed richly upon you, and because of your faithful fellowship with us; for you have been rightly a daughter of Abraham while here, not being afraid with any amazement. Your holy and quiet behaviour, also, while with patience and meekness, and in the gentleness of Christ, you suffered yourself to be robbed for his sake, hath the more united our affections to you in the bowels of Jesus Christ. Yea, it hath begotten you reverence, also, in the hearts of them who were beholders of your meekness and innocency while you suffered; and a stinging conviction, as we are persuaded, in the consciences of those who made spoil for themselves; all which will redound to the praise of God our Father, and to your comfort and everlasting consolation by Christ, in the day he shall come to take vengeance for his people, and to be glorified in them that believe. Wherefore we cannot (our honoured sister) but care for your welfare, and increase of all good in the faith and kingdom of Christ, whose servant you are, and whose name is written in your forehead; and do therefore pray God and our Father, that he would direct your way, and open a door in his temple for you, that you may eat his fat and be refreshed, and that you may drink the pure blood of the grape. And be you assured that, with all readiness, we will help and forward you what we can therein, for we are not ashamed to own you before all the churches of Christ.
'But, our dearly beloved, you know that, for our safety and your profit, it is behoofful that we commit you to such, to be fed and governed in the Word and doctrines as, we are sufficiently persuaded, shall be able to deliver you up with joy at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints: otherwise we (that we say not you) shall receive blushing and shame before him and you; yea, and you also, our honoured sister, may justly charge us with want of love, and a due respect for your eternal condition, if, for want of care and circumspection herein, we should commit you to any from whom you should receive damage, or by whom you should not be succoured and fed with the sincere milk of the incorruptible Word of God, which is able to save your soul. Wherefore we may not, neither dare give our consent that you feed and fold with such whose principles and practices, in matters of faith and worship, we, as yet, are strangers to, and have not received commendations concerning, either from works of theirs or epistles from others. Yourself, indeed, hath declared that you are satisfied therein; but, elect sister, seeing the act of delivering you up is an act of ours and not yours, it is convenient, yea, very expedient, that we, as to so weighty a matter, be well persuaded before. Wherefore we beseech you, that, for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, you give us leave to inform ourselves yet better before we grant your request; and that you also forbear to sit down at the table with any without the consent of your brethren. You were, while with us, obedient, and we trust you will not be unruly now. And for the more quick expedition of this matter, we will propound before you our further thoughts. 1. Either we shall consent to your sitting down with brother Cockain, brother Griffith, brother Palmer, or other, who, of long continuance in the city, have showed forth their faith, their worship, and good conversation with the Word; 2. Or if you can get a commendatory epistle from brother Owen, brother Cockain, brother Palmer, or brother Griffith, concerning the faith and principles of the person and people you mention, with desire to be guided and governed by, you shall see our readiness, in the fear of God, to commit you to the doctrine and care of that congregation. Choose you whether of these you will consent unto, and let us hear of your resolution. And we beseech you, for love's sake, you show, with meekness, your fear and reverence of Christ's institution; your love to the congregation, and regard to your future good. Finally, we commit you to the Lord and the Word of his grace, who is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among them that are sanctified. To God, the only wise, be glory and power everlasting. Amen.—Your affectionate brethren, to serve you in the faith and fellowship of the gospel.
'Sent from Bedford, the 19th of the Fourth Month, 1671.
As a farther illustration of Bunyan's sentiments on this subject, we give the following letter to the church at Braintree:—
'The 7th of the Twelfth Month, 1676 (Feb. 1677).
'The church of Christ in and about Bedford, to the church of Christ in and about Braintree, sendeth greeting,
'Holy and beloved—We, fellow-heirs with you of the grace of life, having considered your request concerning our honoured and beloved brother, Samuel Hensman: that he shall be given up to you for your mutual edification, and his furtherance and joy of faith; and considering also, in the capacity he now standeth by reason of his habitation amongst you, his edification is to be from you, not from us—he being, by God's providence (by which he disposeth the world), placed at such a distance from us. And considering, also, the great end of Christ our Lord, in ordaining the communion of saints, is his glory in their edification, and that all things are to be done by his command to the edification of the body in general, and of every member in particular, and that this we oft (ought?) to design in our receiving him, and giving up to other churches, and not to please ourselves: do as before God and the elect angels, grant and give up to you our elect brother, to be received by you in the Lord, and to be nourished, in the church at Braintree, with you as one that is dear to the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ; and this we the willinger do, because, as we are informed concerning you, beloved, you are not rigid in your principles, but are for communion with saints as saints, and have been taught by the Word to receive the brotherhood, because they are beloved, and received of the Father and the Son, to whose grace we commend you, with the brother of late a member with us, but now one of you. Grace be with you all. Written by the appointment of the church here, and subscribed, in her name, by your brethren, as followeth:—
Sam. Fenn. Oliver Stot. John Fenn. Thomas Cooper. Luke Astwood. John Croker.
The late Mr. Kilpin of Bedford considered the whole of this letter to be entered in the minutes in Bunyan's hand-writing.
There is also in the church book the copy of a letter, in 1674, addressed to the 'church sometime walking with our brother Jesse,' refusing to dismiss to them Martha Cumberland, unless they were certified that they continued in the practice of mixed communion. In these sentiments Bunyan lived and died. His church remains the same to the present day. In the new, commodious, and handsome meeting-house, opened in 1850, there is a baptistery, frequently used. The present minister, the amiable and talented John Jukes, baptizes infants, and receives the assistance of a neighbouring Baptist minister to baptize adults.
Not only had Bunyan clear, well-defined, and most decided views of the ordinances of the gospel, but also of all its doctrines. His knowledge upon those solemn subjects was drawn exclusively from the sacred pages; nor dared he swerve in the slightest degree from the path of duty; still he belonged to no sect, but that of Christian, and the same freedom which had guided him in forming his principles, he cheerfully allowed to others. Hitherto, water baptism had been considered a pre-requisite to the Lord's table by all parties. The Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Independents, had denounced the Baptists as guilty of a most serious heresy, or blasphemy, in denying the right of infants to baptism; not only did they exclude the Baptists from communion with their churches, but they persecuted them with extreme rigour. When the Independents made laws for the government of their colony in America, in 1644, one of the enactments was, 'That if any person shall either openly condemn, or oppose the baptizing of infants, or seduce others, or leave the congregation during the administration of the rite, they shall be sentenced to banishment.' The same year a poor man was tied up and whipped, for refusing to have his child baptized. 'The Rev. J. Clarke, and Mr. O. Holmes, of Rhode Island, for visiting a sick Baptist brother in Massachusetts, instead of being admitted to the Lord's table, they were arrested, fined, imprisoned, and whipped.' At this very time, the Baptists formed their colony at Rhode Island, and the charter concludes with these words, 'All men may walk as their consciences persuade them, every one in the name of his God.' This is probably the only spot in the world where persecution was never known. The Baptists considered that immersion in water was the marriage rite between the believer and Saviour; that to sit at the Lord's table without it was spiritual adultery, to be abhorred and avoided, and therefore refused to admit any person to the Lord's table who had not been baptized in water upon a personal profession of faith in the Saviour. This was the state of parties when Bunyan, at the commencement of his pastorate, entered into the controversy. He had been promised a commendation to his book by the great, the grave, 'the sober' Dr. Owen, but he withdrew his sanction. 'And perhaps it was more for the glory of God, that truth should go naked into the world,' said Bunyan, 'than as seconded by so weighty an armour-bearer as he.' Bunyan denied that water could form a wedding garment, or that water baptism was a pre-requisite for the Lord's table, or that being immersed in water was putting on our Lord's livery, by which disciples may be known. 'Away, fond man, do you forget the text, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."' And attempt was made to embroil Bunyan in a public disputation in London upon this subject, which he very wisely avoided. This controversy will be found in our second volume, and is deeply interesting, making allowance for the esprit de corps manifested on all sides. A verse in the emblems is very pertinent upon the violence of this dispute:—
'Our gospel has had here a summer's day, But in its sunshine we, like fools, did play; Or else fall out, and with each other wrangle, And did, instead of work, not much but jangle.'
After a lapse of nearly two centuries, Bunyan's peaceable principles have greatly prevailed; so that now few churches refuse communion on account of the mode, in which water baptism has been administered. The Baptists are no longer deemed heretics as they formerly were. Dr. Watts aided this kindly feeling—'A church baptized in infancy, or in adult age, may allow communion to those that are of the contrary practice in baptism.' Robert Robinson praises Bunyan's work, and advocates his sentiments upon the most liberal principles. One of his remarks is very striking:—'Happy community! that can produce a dispute of one hundred and fifty years unstained with the blood, and unsullied with the fines, the imprisonments, and the civil inconveniences of the disputants. As to a few coarse names, rough compliments, foreign suppositions, and acrimonious exclamations, they are only the harmless squeakings of men in a passion, caught and pinched in a sort of logical trap.' To this time, Bunyan was only known as an extraordinarily talented and eloquent man, whose retentive memory was most richly stored with the sacred Scriptures. All his sermons and writings were drawn from his own mental resources, aided, while in prison, only by the Bible, the Concordance, and Fox's Book of Martyrs. Very emphatically he says, 'I am for drinking water out of my own cistern.' 'I find such a spirit of idolatry in the learning of this world, that had I it at command I durst not use it, but only use the light of the Word and Spirit of God.' 'I will not take of it from a thread even to a shoe latchet.' It must not be understood that he read no other works but his Bible and Book of Martyrs, but that he only used those in composing his various treatises while in confinement. He certainly had and read The Plain Man's Pathway, Practice of Piety, Luther on the Galatians, Clarke's Looking-glass for Saints and Sinners, Dodd on the Commandments, Andrews' Sermons, Fowler's Design of Christianity, D'Anvers and Paul on Baptism, and doubtless all the books which were within his reach, calculated to increase his store of knowledge.
About this time he published a small quarto tract, in which he scripturally treats the doctrine of eternal election and reprobation. This rare book, published for sixpence, we were glad to purchase at a cost of one guinea and a half, because a modern author rejected its authenticity! It is included in every early list of Bunyan's works, and especially in that published by himself, in 1688, to guard his friends from deception; for he had become so popular an author that several forgeries had been published under his initials. These few pages on election contain a scriptural treatise upon a very solemn subject, written by one whose mind was so imbued by the fear of God, as to have cast out the fear of man; which so generally embarrasses writers upon this subject. It was translated into Welsh, and is worthy an attentive perusal, especially by those who cannot see the difference between God's foreknowledge and his foreordination.
A new era was now dawning upon him, which, during the last ten years of his life, added tenfold to his popularity. For many years his beautifully simple, but splendid allegory, The Pilgrim's Progress, lay slumbering in his drawer. Numerous had been his consultations with his pious associates and friends, and various had been their opinions, whether it was serious enough to be published. All of them had a solemn sense of the impropriety of anything like trifling as to the way of escape from destruction, and the road to the celestial city. It appears strange to us, who have witnessed the very solemn impressions, in all cases, made by reading that book, that there could have been a doubt of the propriety of treating in a colloquial manner, and even under the fashion of a dream, those most important truths. Some said, 'John, print it'; others said, 'not so.' Some said, 'it might do good'; others said, 'no.' The result of all those consultations was his determination, 'I print it will,' and it has raised an imperishable monument to his memory. Up to this time, all Bunyan's popularity arose from his earlier works, and his sermons. Leaving out of the question those most extraordinary books, The Pilgrim's Progress and Holy War, his other writings ought to have handed down his name, with honour and popularity, to the latest posterity. While the logical and ponderous works of Baxter and Owen are well calculated to furnish instruction to those who are determined to obtain knowledge, the works of Bunyan create that very determination, and furnish that very knowledge, so blended with amusement, as to fix it in the memory. Let one illustration suffice. It is our duty to love our enemies, but it is a hard lesson; we must learn it from the conduct of the Divine Creator—'There is a man hates God, blasphemes his name, despises his being; yea, says there is no God. And yet the God that he carrieth it thus towards doth give me his breakfast, dinner, and supper; clothes him well, and, when night comes, has him to bed, gives him good rest, blesses his field, his corn, his cattle, his children, and raises him to high estate; yea, and this our God doth not only once or twice, but until these transgressors become old; his patience is thus extended years after years, that we might learn of him to do well.' All the works of Bunyan abound with such striking lessons, as to render them extremely valuable, especially to Sunday-school teachers and ministers, to enliven their addresses and sermons. But, in The Pilgrim's Progress, the world has acknowledged one train of beauties; picture after picture, most beautifully finished, exhibiting the road from destruction to the celestial city; our only difficulty in such a display being to decide as to which is the most interesting and striking piece of scenery. The editor's introduction to that extraordinary book is intended to prove that it was written while the author was imprisoned for refusing to submit his conscience to human laws, and that it is a perpetual monument to the folly of persecution; the peculiar qualifications of the author are displayed in its having been a spontaneous effusion of his own mind, unaided by any previous writer; an analysis is given of all prior pilgrimages, in which, more especially in The Pilgrims, The Pylgremage of the Soule, Grande Amoure, and in The Pilgrim of Loretto, the reader will find a faithful picture of some of the singularities of Popery drawn by itself; an account of the editions, forgeries, errors in printing, versions and translations of this wonderful book; the opinions of the learned and pious of its merits, principal scenes, and a synopsis. It has been the source of very numerous courses of lectures by ministers of all denominations; and has been turned into a handsome volume of hymns, adapted for public worship, by the late Mr. Purday, a friend of John Wesley's, and a laborious preacher for more than half a century.
Great efforts have been made by the most popular artists to enliven the scenes of the pilgrimage; but no colour glows like the enchanting words of Bunyan. No figures are so true to nature, and so life-like. Those eminent engravers, Sturt and Strut, Stothard and Martin, with the prize efforts excited by the Art Union of England, and the curious outlines by Mrs. M'Kenzie, the daughter of a British admiral, have endeavoured to exhaust the scenes in this inexhaustible work of beautiful scenery. The most elegant and correct edition is the large-paper, sumptuous volume by Mr. Bogue, admirably illustrated with new designs, engraved on wood in superior style—a volume worthy the drawing-room of queens and emperors. The designs, also, of the late David Scott, recently published at Edinburgh, are new, and peculiarly striking. His entrance to the Valley of the Shadow of Death is mysteriously impressive, a fit accompaniment to Bunyan's description, which is not excelled by any thing in Dante, Spencer, or Milton. In both parts of The Pilgrim's Progress this scene is full of terrific sublimity. But we must be excused, if we most warmly recommend our own offspring—the present edition—as combining accuracy, elegance, and cheapness, with the addition of very numerous notes, which, we trust, will prove highly illustrative and entertaining.
The carping criticisms of Mr. Dunlop, in his History of Fiction, and of an author in the Penny Encyclopedia, are scarcely worth notice. The complaint is, want of benevolence in the hero of the tale. How singular it is, and what a testimony to its excellence, that an intelligent writer upon fictions should have been so overpowered with this spiritual narrative, as to confound it with temporal things. Christian leaves his wife and children, instead of staying with them, to be involved in destruction—all this relates to inward spiritual feelings, and to these only. Visited by compunctions of heart, Christian strives to inspire his wife and children with the same, but in vain; he attends solitarily to his spiritual state, taunted by his family, while, as to temporal things, he becomes a better husband and father than ever he was—but this is not prominent, because it is entirely foreign to the author's object, which is to display the inward emotions of the new birth, the spiritual journey alone, apart from all temporal affairs. Multitudes read it as if it was really a dream, the old sleeping portrait confirming the idea. In the story, Christian most mysteriously embodies all classes of men, from the prince to the peasant—the wealthiest noble, or merchant, to the humbles mechanic or labourer—and it illustrates the most solemn, certain truth, that, with respect to the salvation of the soul, the poorest creature in existence is upon perfect equality with the lordly prelate, or magnificent emperor, with this word ringing in their ears, 'the POOR have the gospel preached to them.' The Grace Abounding, or Life of Bunyan, is a key to all the mysteries of The Pilgrim's Progress, and Holy War.
Bunyan's singular powers are those of description, not of invention. He had lived in the city of destruction—he had heard the distant threatening of the awful storm that was shortly to swallow it up in unutterable ruin—he had felt the load of sin, and rejoiced when it was rolled away before a crucified Saviour—he knew every step of the way, and before he had himself passed the black river, he had watched prayerfully over those who were passing, and when the gate of the city was opened to let them enter, he had strained his eyes to see their glory.
The purifying influence of The Pilgrim's Progress may be traced in the writings of many imaginative authors. How does it in several parts beautify the admirable tale of Uncle Tom, and his Cabin. In that inimitable scene, the death of the lovely Eva, the distressed negro, watching with intense anxiety the progress of death, says, 'When that blessed child goes into the kingdom, they'll open the door so wide, we'll all get a look in at the glory.' Whence came this strange idea—not limited to the poor negro, but felt by thousands who have watched over departing saints? It comes from the entrance of Christian and Hopeful into the celestial city—'I looked in after them, and, behold, the city shone like the sun; the streets, also, were paved with gold, and in them they walked with crowns on their heads, palms in their hands, and golden harps to sing praises, which, when I had seen, I wished myself among them.' How often has Bunyan's wit sparkled in sermons, and even in speeches delivered in the senate. Recently, in a speech on the collation ministry, the following reference was introduced:—'Mr. Facing-both-ways, of honest John Bunyan, is not a creature mankind can regard with any complacency; nor will they likely suffer any one to act with one party, and reserve his principles for another.' It has also been strangely quoted in novel writing—thus in Bell's Villette—visiting a God-mother in a pleasant retreat, is said 'to resemble the sojourn of Christian and Hopeful, beside the pleasant stream, with green trees on each bank, and meadows beautified with lilies all the year round.' It is marvelous that a picture of nature should have been so beautifully and strikingly described by an unlettered artisan, as to be used in embellishing an elegant novel, written nearly two centuries after his decease.
The Pilgrim was followed by a searching treatise on The Fear of God. The value of this book led to its republication by the Tract Society, and 4000 copies have been circulated. It is a neat and acceptable volume, but why altered? and a psalm omitted. Bunyan says, 'Your great ranting, swaggering, roysters'; this is modernized into 'Your ranting boasters.' Then followed, the Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ. This was frequently reprinted, and hundreds of thousands have been circulated to benefit the world. His popularity increased with his years; efforts were made, but in vain, to steal him from his beloved charge at Bedford. 'He hath refused a more plentiful income to keep his station,' is the language of his surviving friend, Charles Doe. It is not surprising that he was thus tempted to leave his poor country church, for we are told by the same biographer, that 'When Mr. Bunyan preached in London, if there were but one day's notice given, there would be more people come together to hear him preach, than the meeting-house could hold. I have seen to hear him preach, by my computation, about 1200 at a morning lecture, by seven o'clock, on a working day, in the dark winter time. I also computed about 3000 that came to hear him one Lord's-day, at London, at a town's end meeting-house, so that half were fain to go back again for want of room, and then himself was fain at a back door to be pulled almost over people to get up stairs to his pulpit.' This took place in a large meeting-house, erected in Zoar Street, either on the site or near the Globe Theatre, Southwark. On this spot, the prince of dramatists amused and corrupted crowded houses; while in the immediate vicinity were the stews and bear garden, frequented by libertines of the lowest caste. One Sunday, in 1582, many were killed or miserably wounded while attending the brutal sport of bear-baiting. Here, in the heart of Satan's empire, the prince of allegorists attracted multitudes, to be enlightened by his natural eloquence, and to be benefited by the fruits of his prolific and vivid imagination, at all times curbed and directed by the holy oracles. It was a spacious building, covering about 2000 feet of ground (50 by 40), with three galleries, quite capable of holding the number computed by Mr. Doe. We have, from correct drawings, furnished our subscribers with the plan and elevation of this ancient meeting-house. Having preached with peculiar warmth and enlargement, one of his friends took him by the hand, and could not help observing what a sweet sermon he had delivered; 'Ay,' said he, 'you need not remind me of that, for the devil told me of it before I was out of the pulpit!' Amongst his hearers were to be found the learned and the illiterate. It was well known that Dr. John Owen, when he had the opportunity, embraced it with pleasure, and sat at the feet of the unlearned, but eloquent tinker. Charles II, hearing of it, asked the learned D.D., 'How a man of his great erudition could sit to hear a tinker preach?' to which the doctor replied, 'May it please your Majesty, if I could possess the tinker's abilities, I would gladly give in exchange all my learning.'
He now pictured the downward road of the sinner to the realms of death and darkness in the Life of Badman. This was published in 1680, and is written in a language which fraudulent tradesmen at that period could not misunderstand; using terms now obsolete or vulgar. It is full of anecdotes, which reveal the state of the times, as superlatively immoral, and profane. He incidentally notices that a labourer received eightpence or tenpence per day. At that time, bread and all the necessaries of life, excepting meat, were dearer than they are at present. In fact, our days are much happier for the poor than any preceding ones in British history. Bunyan's notions of conscientious dealing, will make all traders who read them—blush.
November 12, 1681, Bunyan's friend and fellow-labourer Samuel Fenn, was removed from this world, and in the following year persecution raged severely. The church was, for a season, driven from the meeting-house, and obliged to assemble in the fields. The Word of the Lord was precious in those days.
In 1682, while surrounded by persecution, he prepared and published his most profound and beautiful allegory, The Holy War, made by Shaddai upon Diabolus, for the Regaining of the Metropolis of the World; or, The Losing and Taking again the Town of Mansoul. The frontispiece is the most accurate likeness of Bunyan that is extant; it is engraved by White, from a drawing, also by him, now preserved in the print department of the British Museum. From this drawing, carefully compared with the print, we have furnished the expressive likeness which forms the frontispiece to this volume. It has also a correct whole-length portrait, with emblematical devices. This exceedingly beautiful and most finished allegory has never been so popular as The Pilgrim's Progress, for reasons which are shown in the introduction to The Holy War. The whole narrative of this wondrous war appears to flow as naturally as did that of the pilgrimage from the highly imaginative mind of the author. Man, in his innocence, attracts the notice and hatred of Apollyon. Nothing could be accomplished by force—all by subtlety and deceit. He holds a council of war—selects his officers—approaches—parleys, and gains admittance—then fortifies the town against its king—Immanuel determines to recover it—vast armies, under appropriate leaders, surround the town, and attack every gate. The ear is garrisoned by Captain Prejudice and his deaf men. But he who rides forth conquering and to conquer is victorious. All the pomp, and parade, and horrors of a siege are as accurately told, as if by one who had been at the sacking of many towns. The author had learnt much in a little time, at the siege of Leicester. All the sad elements of war appear, and make us shudder—masses of armed men with their slings and battering-rams—clarions and shouts—wounded and slain, all appear as in a panorama. The mind becomes entranced, and when sober reflection regains her command, we naturally inquire, Can all this have taken place in my heart? Then the armies of Diabolus, with his thousands of Election Doubters, and as many Vocation Doubters, and his troops of Blood-men—thousands slain, and yet thousands start into existence. And all this in one man! How numberless are our thoughts—how crafty the approaches of the enemy—how hopeless and helpless is the sinner, unless Immanuel undertakes his recovery. The Holy War is a most surprising narrative of the fall and of the recovery of man's soul, as accurate as it is most deeply interesting. It is one of the most perfect of allegories. There is as vast a superiority in Bunyan's Holy War over that by Chrysostom, as there is in the sun over a rush-light.
In 1684, he completed his Pilgrim's Progress, with the Journey of a Female Christian, her Children, and the Lovely Mercy; and now, as his invaluable and active life drew towards its close, his labours were redoubled. In his younger days, there appeared to have been no presentiment on his part that the longest term of human life would with him be shortened, but rather an expectation of living to old age, judging from an expression in his Grace Abounding. when he enjoyed a good hope, and bright anticipation of heavenly felicity, 'I should often long and desire that the last days were come. O! thought I, that I were fourscore years old now, that I might die quickly and be gone to rest.' At that time he did not anticipate twelve years' imprisonment in a wretched jail, nor the consequent effects it must have upon his robust frame, well calculated to stand all weathers, but easily sapped and undermined by a damp dungeon. Symptoms of decay, after having enjoyed his liberty for about a year, led him to close his Affectionate Advice to his Beloved Flock, on their Christian Behaviour; with these words, 'Thus have I written to you, before I die, to provoke you to faith and holiness, and to love one another, when I am deceased, and shall be in paradise, as through grace I comfortably believe; yet it is not there, but here, I must do you good.' It is remarkable that Bunyan escaped all the dangers of the trying reign of James II, who, at times, was a persecutor, and at times endeavoured, in vain, by blandishments, to win the Nonconformists. his minions had their eyes upon our pilgrim, but were foiled in every attempt to apprehend him; all that he suffered was the occasional spoiling of his goods. Neither violence nor allurements induced him to deviate from his line of duty. No fear of man appeared to agitate his breast—he richly enjoyed that 'perfect love,' which 'casteth out fear' (1 John 4:18). James did all that an unprincipled man could do to cajole the Dissenters, that by their aid he might pull down the walls of Protestantism, and give full sway to the Papacy. He attempted, among many others, to bribe John Bunyan. He knew not how well he was read in the Book of Martyrs; how well he was aware that 'the instruments of cruelty are in their habitations,' and that the only advantage he could have received, would have been the same that Polypheme, the monstrous giant of Sicily, allowed to Ulysses, that he would eat his men first, and do him the favour of being eaten last. Mr. Doe states that 'Regulators were sent into all cities and towns corporate to new-model the magistracy, by turning out some, and putting in others. Against this Bunyan expressed his zeal with great anxiety, as foreseeing the bad consequences that would attend it, and laboured with his congregation to prevent their being imposed on in this kind. And when a great man in those days, coming to Bedford upon some such errand, sent for him, as it is supposed, to give him a place of public trust, he would by no means come at him, but sent his excuse.' He knew that in his flesh he possessed what he calls 'Adam's legacy, a conduit pipe, through which the devil conveys his poisoned spawn and venom,' and he wisely avoided this subtle temptation. He detested the 'painted Satan, or devil in fine clothes.' It was one of these hypocritical pretences to correct evil, while really meaning to increase it, and which Bunyan calls, 'the devil correcting vice.' He was watchful, lest 'his inward man should catch cold,' and every attempt to entangle him failed.
This godly jealousy led him to sacrifice worldly interests to an extent not justifiable, if all the facts appear. When told that a very worthy citizen of London would take his son Joseph apprentice without fee, and advance his interests, he refused, saying, 'God did not send me to advance my family, but to preach the gospel.'
At this time he again manifested his lion heart, by writing and preparing for the press a fearless treatise on Antichrist, and his Ruin. In this he shows, that human interference with Divine worship, by penal laws or constraint, is 'Antichrist'—that which pretends to regulate thought, and thus to reduce the kingdom of Christ to a level with the governments of this world. In this treatise, he clearly exhibits the meaning of that passage, so constantly quoted by the advocates of tyranny and persecution (Ezra 7:26), and shows that the laws interfered not with Divine worship, but that they upheld to the fullest extent the principle of voluntary obedience (v 13); so that any man putting constraint upon another in religious affairs, would be guilty of breaking the law, and subject him to extreme punishment. This was one of the last treatises which Bunyan prepared for the press, as if in his dying moments he would aim a deadly thrust at Apollyon. Reader, it is worthy your most careful perusal, as showing the certain downfall of Antichrist, and the means by which it must be accomplished.
Feeling the extreme uncertainty of life, and that he might be robbed of all his worldly goods, under a pretence of fines and penalties, he, on the 23d of December, 1685, executed a deed of gift, vesting what little he possessed in his wife. It is a singular instrument, especially as having been sealed with a silver twopenny piece. The original is in the church book, at Bedford:—
'To all people to whom this present writing shall com, J. Bunyan of the parish of St. Cuthbirt's, in the towne of Bedford, in the county of Bedford, Brazier send greeting. Know ye, that I the said John Bunyan as well for, and in consideration of the natural affection and loue which I have, and bear vnto my welbeloued wife, Elizabeth Bunyan, as also for divers other good causes and considerations, me at this present especially moneing, have given and granted, and by these presents, do give, grant, and conferm vnto the said Elizabeth Bunyan, my said wife, all and singuler my goods, chattels, debts, ready mony, plate, rings, household stuffe, aparrel, vtensills, brass, peuter, beding, and all other my substance, whatsoever moueable and immoueable, of what kinde, nature, quality, or condition soever the same are or be, and in what place or places soever the same be, shall or may be found as well in mine own custodies, possession, as in the possession, hands, power, and custody of any other person, or persons whatsoever. To have and to hold all and singuler the said goods, chattels, debts, and all other, the aforesaid premises vnto the said Elizabeth, my wife, her executors, administerators, and assigns to her and their proper vses and behoofs, freely and quietly without any matter of challinge, claime, or demand of me the said John Bunyan, or of any other person, or persons, whatsoever for me in my name, by my means cavs or procurement, and without any mony or other thing, therefore to be yeeilded, paid or done vnto me the said John Bunyan, my executors, administrators or assigns. And I, the said John Bunyan, all and singular, the aforesaid goods, chattels, and premises to the said Elizabeth my wife, her executors, administrators, and assignes to the vse aforesaid, against all people do warrant and forever defend by these presents. And further, know ye, that I the said John Bunyan have put the said Elizabeth, my wife, in peacable and quiet possession of all and singuler the aforesaid premises, by the delivrye vnto her at the ensealing hereof one coyned peece of silver, commonly called two pence, fixed on the seal of these presents.
'In wittnes wherof, I the said John Bunyan have herevnto set my hand and seall this 23d day of December, in the first year of the reigne of our soueraigne lord, King James the Second of England, &c., in the year of our lord and saviour, Jesus Christ, 1685.
Sealed and delivered in the presence of vs, whos names are here vnder written:—
John Bardolph. Willm Hawkes. Nicholas Malin. Lewes Norman.
It appears from this deed that Bunyan continued in business as a brazier, and it is very probable that he carried it on until his decease. This deed secured to his wife what little he possessed, without the trouble or expense of applying to the ecclesiastical courts for probate of a will.
Among other opinions which then divided the Christian world, was a very important one relative to the law of the ten commandments, whether it was given to the world at large, or limited to the Jews as a peculiar nation until the coming of Messiah, and whether our Lord altered or annulled the whole or any part of that law. This question involves the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath. An awful curse is denounced upon those who do not continue in ALL things which are written in the book of the law to do them (Gal 3:10; Deut 27:26). When an innovation upon the almost universal practice of infant baptism had become an object of inquiry only to be answered from the New Testament, it is not surprising that the serious question, why God's Sabbath-day had been altered, should also be agitated with deep feeling. Generally, those who advocated the restoration of the Jewish Sabbath were decidedly of opinion that believers only were fit subjects for baptism, and that the scriptural mode of administering it was by immersion; hence they were called Seventh-day Baptists—Sabbatarians, or Sabbath-keepers.
Bunyan entered with very proper and temperate zeal into this controversy. Popular feeling had no influence over him; nor could he submit to the opinions of the ancient fathers. His storehouse of knowledge was limited to the revealed will of God, and there he found ample material to guide his opinion. His work upon this subject is called, Questions about the Nature and Perpetuity of the Seventh-day Sabbath; and proof that the First Day of the Week is the Christian Sabbath. It is one of the smallest of his volumes, but so weighty in argument as never to have been answered.
We now arrive at the last year of his eventful and busy life, during which he published six important volumes, and left twelve others in manuscript, prepared for publication. A list of these will be found in The Struggler; they are upon the most important subjects, which are very admirably treated. We notice among these, The Jerusalem Sinner Saved, or Good News for the Vilest of Men. It is a specimen of preaching calculated to excite the deepest interest, and afford the strongest consolation to a soul oppressed with the sense of sin. Great sinner! thou art called to mercy by name. Arise! shoulder thy way into court through any crowd,—'say, Stand away, devil; stand away all discouragements; my Saviour calls me to receive mercy.' In this treatise, Bunyan has repeated from memory what he had read in some book when in prison, four and twenty years before. It is a curious legend, which he doubtless believed to be true, and it displays his most retentive memory. His poetry, like his prose, was not written to gain a name, but to make a deep impression. One of his professed admirers made a strange mistake when he called them doggerel rhymes. His Caution to Watch Against Sin is full of solemn and impressive thoughts, the very reverse of doggerel or burlesque. his poem on the house of God is worthy of a most careful perusal; and thousands have been delighted and improved with his emblems. One rhyme in the Pilgrim can never be forgotten—